The colder, the better Powerful sled dogs of the Poconos run their best when it's below zero
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Brad MacMillian lays out a gang line and sets his lead dogs to hold the line taut. Behind these dogs go the point dogs, and then behind them are the wheel dogs-the main pulling power of the team.
"Huskies, I like their temperament," said Brad MacMillian, owner of Ma-Luk Sled Dog Adventures. "Their temperament fits my personality.
"That's one of the things you want to look for in a breed, whether a pet or a working breed. They're a sociable, loving dog, and are great around children."
MacMillian's Huskies are working dogs, and he has 15 of them: Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes.
Ninety-pound Alaskan Malemute Ma-Luk, meaning Big Foot, is the company's namesake.
"He is energetic, loving, social, and a very powerful dog," MacMillian said. "He has pulled 3,000 pounds by himself in weight pulls."
MacMillian was harnessing his dogs at the Lehigh Gorge Trail Glen Onoko Access on a brisk November Sunday morning. The temperature was hovering just above freezing-cold enough for most people, but not for MacMillian's sled dogs.
"They like anything below zero," he said. "The dogs run their best below zero. Above 50 degrees, the dogs tend to overheat and don't want to work."
MacMillian started running his dog teams in early fall and will continue until March. Then, its rest and relaxation through the spring and air conditioning in the summer.
Now that it's autumn, the dogs can't wait to run. Tied to his truck the dogs were yipping and jumping, full of energy and ready to run. If left off leash, they would take off.
"Huskies are a nomadic dog," MacMillian explained. "They like to roam and run in big packs. Off-leash they smell things, and hunt things down. They have a high prey drive."
MacMillian lays out a gang line and sets his lead dogs to hold the line taut. The dogs behind them are the point dogs, and then behind them are the wheel dogs - the main pulling power of the team.
"The leaders are the brains of the team," MacMillian said. "They take on all the responsibility for all the other dogs. They need to be a dog that likes to have other dogs running behind."
For the past 10 years, MacMillian's Ma-Luk Sled Dog Adventures has offered dog sled rides and tours throughout the Poconos. He has been working with dogs for 20 years.
As a child, MacMillian's family was into showing of dog breeds and field trials.
"I wasn't allowed to have a husky until I got older," he said. "Then, I read about the different breeds, talked to a lot of people, and bought my first dog. Then, I got a couple more dogs, and a couple more dogs after that - to go farther and faster."
You might catch MacMillian in the early morning on a cold Sunday at the entrance to the Glen Onoko Trail. At the beginning of the season, he takes his dogs on a training run.
"We want to get the miles on the dogs before winter hits," he explained. "We start out doing a mile, work our way up to five miles, then ten miles, then 15 miles, and eventually 30 miles."
To many people, this brings up visions of the Alaskan Iditarod Sled Dog Race, a 1,161 miles journey that a team of 16 dogs cover in nine to fifteen days. The race commemorates how, in 1925, when Nome was hit with a diphtheria epidemic, a relay of dog sled teams saved lives by transporting the vaccine nearly 1,200 miles from Anchorage to Nome. In 1973, the Iditarod was created in memory of that event.
Arrangements for a dog sledding adventure can be made through the Inn at Jim Thorpe. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 570-386-3539.